Higher Education Quick Takes

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Thursday, December 9, 2010 - 3:00am

Sen. Tom Harkin has identified the next target in his campaign to draw attention to perceived abuses in for-profit higher education: the institutions' large and growing share of financial aid for military service members and veterans. The Iowa Democrat, who has held a series of highly critical hearings this year and threatened a legislative crackdown against the institutions, called a news conference for today at which he plans to release the latest in a string of reports on the sector. An article published Wednesday night in The New York Times cites data showing that for-profit colleges are receiving a disproportionate share of money from the Post-9/11 GI Bill and quotes several former officials at career colleges describing the aggressive tactics they used to enroll veterans -- even those they were not confident could succeed academically. The article quotes Harkin saying that the institutions see veterans as a "cash cow" and that “[i]t is both a rip off of the taxpayer and a slap in the face to the people who have risked their lives for our country."

Thursday, December 9, 2010 - 3:00am

Raymond Taylor, a part-time instructor at Kennesaw State University, was arrested Monday after students reported that he had exposed himself in class, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported. Taylor was charged with public indecency, and was released from jail Tuesday after posting $5,000 bond. He declined to discuss the situation. Ken Harmon, interim provost at the university, said, "He will not be teaching again at KSU."

Thursday, December 9, 2010 - 3:00am

Robert Manning, chair of the University of Massachusetts Board of Trustees, resigned from the board Wednesday amid reports that he was frustrated with what he viewed as political interference by Gov. Deval Patrick, who appointed him, The Boston Globe reported. The governor recently expressed concerns about the search for a new system president; soon afterward, a leading candidate for the position, Martin T. Meehan, chancellor of the UMass campus at Lowell, withdrew from consideration.

Thursday, December 9, 2010 - 3:00am

A federal judge on Wednesday rejected the latest in a series of lawsuits challenging the California referendum that bars public colleges and universities from considering race or ethnicity in admissions decisions, the Associated Press reported. The suit argued that the ban has led to declines in the enrollments of black and Latino students, but the judge noted that similar legal challenges already have been rejected.

Thursday, December 9, 2010 - 3:00am

Four former athletes at the University of Toledo will plead guilty to charges related to fixing the outcome of football and men's basketball games, The Toledo Blade reported. The allegations concern a two-year period starting in December 2004.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010 - 3:00am

A new study out today reinforces the impression left by other recent surveys of the country's economic landscape: tight state budgets are going to put a squeeze on public colleges and many other state-financed entities. The newest analysis, released today by the National Conference of State Legislatures, follows other recent assessments of the state budget environment by the National Governors Association and the National Association of State Budget Officers, the Nelson A. Rockefeller Institute of Government, and the American Association of State Colleges and Universities. The big-picture view of the legislators' report, consistent with the others, is that state revenues in the 2011-12 and 2012-13 fiscal years are expected to turn up somewhat over this year, but those increases will leave most states well short of where they were in 2008 -- with overall general fund spending $42 billion less than in that year. And unlike the last two years, most states will be unable to plug those holes with billions of dollars in federal stimulus funds, even though the rising costs that those federal monies were meant to mitigate -- especially in increased Medicaid payments -- show no signs of abating. With many new governors having won their jobs in part with pledges of "no new taxes," and continuing pressure on colleges to keep tuition increases to a minimum, the political choices for state leaders will be difficult, said Daniel J. Hurley, director of state relations and policy analysis at the state-college association.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010 - 3:00am

The U.S. Government Accountability Office has revised a number of passages in a highly critical report on the recruiting tactics of for-profit colleges, generally in ways that make the colleges look better, The Washington Post reported. Republican defenders of the colleges say that the changes -- relating to what for-profit representatives told investigators posing as students -- raise questions about the entire report. GAO offiicals say that the changes concern a relatively small number of interactions and don't change the larger conclusions of the study.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010 - 3:00am

Kaplan Higher Education announced Tuesday that it is eliminating 770 positions, about 5 percent of its work force. Jeff Conlon, president and CEO of Kaplan Higher Education, said: "Our enrollments have slowed recently, as they have at other proprietary schools. More importantly, we have made a strategic decision to become more selective in the students we enroll, focusing on students who are most likely to thrive in a rigorous academic environment and meet their financial obligations. These factors have led to a shift in our personnel needs."

Wednesday, December 8, 2010 - 3:00am

Two professors are suing West Virginia University over misconduct allegations they face in relation to a scandal over a degree improperly awarded to the daughter of the then-governor, The National Law Journal reported. The professors had been assigned the task of figuring out whether Heather Bresch earned an M.B.A. at the university; their suit says that they found she didn't, but that the university retroactively awarded one anyway -- only to then charge them with misconduct over the way she received the degree. The university has not responded to the suit.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010 - 3:00am

Lane Community College has called off a non-credit course called "What Is Islam?" amid concerns about the instructor, The Eugene Register-Guard reported. The instructor, Barry Sommer, heads a local chapter of a group that has been criticized as anti-Islam -- a characterization he disputes. Mary Spilde, president at Lane, said that no contract was ever signed for Sommer to teach the course and that she does not think the action raises free speech issues. "We certainly value intellectual inquiry and freedom of speech but we also want to make sure, when LCC is involved, that we are doing it in an appropriate way to provide a productive and effective learning environment," she said. "We are not going to be pressured by any group on any side of this issue when we make a decision."

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